It was a dual celebration on the starting line late Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Famoso Raceway.
With the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Funny Car title on the line and points leader Jason Rupert watching, John Hale and Dan Horan squared off in the final round of the California Hot Rod Reunion.
A win by Horan, of Rancho Cascades, would deliver him the championship. A win by Hale, of Addison, Texas, and the title went to Rupert for a third straight year.
Hale saved his best run of the weekend for last, thundering down the quarter-mile in 5.685 seconds to beat Horan's 5.744, setting of a wild celebration by crew members for both Rupert and Hale.
Two hours earlier, Hale used an advantage off the starting line to beat Rupert in the closest of the day as Hale's slower 5.702 edged Rupert's 5.691.
"What a turn of events," Rupert said. "I couldn't be more happy. We're going to have some fun tonight."
Hale and Rupert were pitted next to each other and shared in the dual triumphs as crews and cars merged in Victory Lane. "John and I are really good pals and our crews are friends," Rupert said. "I try not to be biased because all the guys here on every single team try so hard and we try to get along with everyone. Horan gave us a heck of a fight."
Hale said his reaction times on the starting line, coupled with hard work by his team, put the him in position to win.
"We left on Rupert, that was a big race," he said of getting advantages on the starting line. "Also against Mike Lewis.. That was huge."
In that race, Hale got a big jump at the line and his 5.869 was good enough to beat Lewis' 5.771, setting up the semifinal against Rupert, of Yorba Linda.
"We struggled all weekend," Hale said. "The motor wasn't really happy all weekend so the guys had to work after every run. We had to put pistons in it, work on heads after every run. It was a good team effort today."
The day started with a wild ride and explosion in just the second Funny Car pairing that resulted in an oil down that took the track crew nearly an hour to clean.
A broken oil line resulted in Todd Paton going sideways almost immediately as he left the starting line in the tower lane and he crossed behind Anthony Bronge, who was on his way to a 5.62-second run.
Paton managed to get the car turned about 150 feet out, avoiding hitting the opposite crash wall. He then moved back into his lane about 300 feet down the track and idled down the track, spewing oil all the way.
While that was happening, Bronge's engine exploded near the finish line, sending parts and smoke billowing into the air and oil onto the track.
Paton was disqualified for crossing the center line and Bronge's team could not repair the damage, giving Horan a single run in the semis and clear path to the finals.
In Top Fuel action, Adam Sorokin of La Crescenta came away with the victory as his off-the-pace 5.91 at 216 mph, due to a supercharger explosion, was good enough to beat Denver Schutz of Fresno. Schutz driftedtoward the centerline midway down the track and had no speed or time recorded as he crossed the center line.
"It's nice to end the season with a win," Sorokin said. " I've never won the Reunion before. I've won the March Meet, which is one of the biggest races I can win, and this is the other biggest race I could ever win. I'm very happy."
Like Hale, Sorokin said it was his team that deserved a lot of the credit.
"This one goes to the crew," he said. "These guys did an amazing job over the weekend. The carnage we had to get over was amazing. Jimmy Young gave us tires to use, front and back. It was kind of a community effort. The team really brought the win home today."
Schutz reached the finals with a string of runs in the 5.60s, starting with his frist trip down the strip on Friday at 5.67 seconds, which earned him the top qualifying spot.
He ran 5.689 on a single run in the first round on Saturday and started Sunday off with a 5.671 win over Bill Dunlap. He then ran 5.696 to beat the 5.766 of Brett Harris in the semis.
Schutz has been runner-up in all three races he's competed in this year, starting with the March Meet.
Sorokin had a single in the first round, ran a 5.677 in the second round and beat Rick McGee in the semis with a 5.770.
Jim Murphy clinched his first Hot Rod Heritage Series championship with a first-round win on Saturday but lost to Brett Harris in the second round on Sunday, managing just a 6.23.
"I don't know what happened today," Murphy said. "We've raced Harris many, many times over the years and he seldom gives you a gift and he ran 6.01, which is a huge gift from him, and (yet) we stumbled. It looks like we dropped two cylinders at the hit."
Murphy purchased the car Jim Young drove to victory at the March Meet and is now looking to put that car back in Victory Lane at the 2014 March Meet.
"I'm really looking forward to the March Meet and finally getting the monkey off my back," said Murphy, who is tied for the most Top Fuel wins at four with Don Garlits. "Maybe then I can retire."
James Barta of Bakersfield won the Nostalgia Eliminator I class.